Three Years of Home Mission Work in, Asheville
BY REV. R. F, CAMPBELL, D. D.
When in the fall of 1896 the Synod of North Carolina
set off a part of .the Presbytery of Mecklenburg to form
the Presbytery of Asheville, it was not making a new
departure. It was only taking another step in the for-
ward policy pursued from the beginning.
From 1770 to 1795 the Presbytery of Orange included
the whole State of North Carolina. In the latter year,
the Synod of the "Carolinas created a new Presbytery out
of the counties west of the Yadkin river, giving it the
name of Concord.
In 18 1 2 the Presbytery of Orange was again divided
by the setting off of the Presbytery of Fayetteville.
A' few years later Fayetteville in turn was cut in
twain, and the southwestern half of its territory re-
ceived the name of Wilmington.
In 1889 the Synod created the Presbytery of Albe-
marle out of parts of Wilmington and Orange, thus
making four Presbyteries east of the Yadkin.
In the meanwhile the same process of division had
begun west of the river. In 1869 the Synod divided the
Presbytery of Concord, by setting off seventeen coun-
ties to form the Presbytery of Mecklenburg. In 1896
Mecklenburg in turn came under the knife, and, by a
surgical operation not entirely free from pain, the eleven
counties west of the Blue Ridge mountains were cut off
to constitute the Presbytery of Asheville.
Presbyterianism in North Carolina has multiplied by
division. The old Presbytery of Orange has become
seven ; instead of twenty-three ministers there are now
one hundred and sixty-three ; and trie few hundred mem-
bers have become thirty-five thousand strong. A hun-
dred years ago a handful of Presbyterian corn was cast
into the soil of North Carolina. The fruit thereof now
shakes like Lebanon.
When in 1869 the Presbytery of Mecklenburg was
erected, it had on its roll 23 ministers and 39 churches.
The communicants numbered 3,376. The contributions
to Home Missions amounted to $2,753, to Foreign Mis-
In the spring of 1896, before the erection of Ashe-
ville Presbytery, Mecklenburg reported 41 ministers, 86
churches, 8,746 members, $5,235 for Home Missions and
$6,216 for Foreign Missions. This is a net gain, in 27
years of 18 ministers, or nearly 80 per cent.; of 47
churches, or 120 per cent.; of 5,370 communicants or
160 per cent.; of $^,482 in annual contributions to the
cause of Home Missions or nearly 100 per cent.; of $5,-
478 in annual contributions to For&ign Missions, or
nearly 800 per cent.
The Presbytery of Mecklenburg as originally constitu-
ted was, to borrow the parlance of gerrymandering poli-
tics, "a shoe-string district." The extreme length of
the territory was not far short of three hundred miles.
Charlotte, though not the geographical centre, was in
influence and blue blood the heart of the Presbytery.
Church life west of the Blue Ridge, because of its dis-
tance from the heart, was suffering from sluggish circu-.
lation. The Synod, therefore, in the fall of 1896, created
a new body with a heart of its own, and gave it the name
of Asheville Presbytery.
The new Presbytery held its opening meeting in the
First Presbyterian Church, Asheville, Dec. 2, 1896.
I,et us measure the growth of this infant now entering
upon the fourth year of her life:
1. New Organizations and Buildings. Six churches
have been organized, an average of two a year.
Eight buildings have been erected, two are under way
and three will probably be begun as soon as the roads
get dry enough for heavy hauling.
2. Number of Communicants. The membership has
increased from 1,000 to about 1,300, a net gain of 300 or
30 per cent.
During the same period of three years, the Presbyte-
rian Church as a whole, North and South, has had a net
gain of only about 4^2 per cent. That is, the number of
communicants has multiplied nearly seven times as fast
in the Presbytery of Asheville as in the Presbyterian
Church throughout the United States.
3. Contributions. Two great causes are selected as
representing the interest of the church in aggressive
work at home and abroad.
The contributions to Foreign Missions have increased
from $542 to $982, a gain of 81 per cent.
Home Missions from $923 to $2,484, a gain of 170 per
4. Gains that cannot be tabulated or expressed in fig-
ures. Three years ago Hayesville, Murphy, Andrews, Bry-
son City and Dillsboro were under one pastorate. This large
field has been divided into two groups, and our working
force there doubled. There was no church building either
at Dillsboro or Andrews. Now we have two buildings
(church and school) at Dillsboro, and one at Andrews.
A debt of $800 on the Bryson City Church building and
another of $75 on the Hayesville building, both of long
standing, have been paid.
Three years ago the church at Hendersonville was
grouped with Mills River and Midway, and was paying
$300 for half time of a pastor. This church is now giv-
ing $500 on pastor's salary, and with the aid of a supple-
ment from the Presbytery is able to have a pastor for the
whole of his time. We may confidently expect this
church to become self-supporting in a very few years.
Three years ago the churches of Waynesville and
Bethel w T ere receiving a supplement of $150 from the
Presbytery. They are now supporting their pastor with-
out aid, and are growing rapidly in membership and
strength under the ministry of Rev. Frank D. Hunt.
Barnardsviixe. About two years ago Messrs. Robt.
V. Miller and R. A. Garrett, members of the First Church,
Asheville, held religious services at this point, which were
blessed to the conversion of a considerable number of
souls. The people of the community expressed a desire
to have the Presbyterian church begin work among them
and in response to this invitation Rev. E. MacDavis was
sent to minister to them. At that time there was not a
member of the Presbyterian church in that neighborhood.
Now there are two church organizations with about one
hundred members, and two church buildings in course of
erection. A member of the First Church, Asheville, has
given $500 for the building at Barnardsville, and the citi-
zens of that place have donated an eligible site and $250
in money or its equivalent. The people of Dillingham,
three miles east of Barnardsville, on Upper Ivey River,
are putting up the other building, the Home Mission
Committee furnishing only hardware and paints. L,and,
lumber, and labor have also been offered in the Barnards-
ville field for manse and school.
5. Administration and policy. The work is adminis-
tered by the Presbytery through a committee of Home
Missions, the members of which are chosen annually by
the Presbytery upon the recommendation of a special
committee on nominations.
The committee is required to report to the Presbytery
semi-annualty, and has no authority beyond that delega-
ted to it by this body.
The committee meets once a month in regular session,
with special meetings at such times as the exigencies of
the work seem to demand. The members have given
themselves to the work with fidelity and enthusiasm, no
one of them having ever failed to be present at a regular
meeting unless sick or out of town.
It is the duty of this Committee, "under the direction
of Presbytery, to take the general oversight of feeble
churches, especially when vacant, and of missionary
fields in our bounds, with a view to secure for all desti^
tute places adequate evangelistic and pastoral laborers."
(Manual of Asheville Presbytery, p. 10.)
The churches receiving aid are urged to advance to the
point of self-support as rapidly as possible, in order that
the work may be extended into new and destitute fields.
This is not an untried policy, but one which has been
in vogue for many years in all the Presbyteries, and in
the pursuance of which the Synod of North Carolina has
made c uch rapid strides in the last fifteen years. In 1885
there were 20,000 members of the Presbyterian Church
in the State; there are now 35,000. This remarkable
growth is the result of a revival of religion which began
in the Synod fifteen years ago and which has been going
on ever since.
6. The Guiding and Providing Hand of God. Mr. Spur-
geon, in speaking of the founding of his Pastor's College,
remarks that "it seems to be God's plan that works of
usefulness should develop themselves in obedience to a
living force within, rather than by scheme and plan
It has been so in this work. The new Presbytery
from its very birth seems to have been carried along by a
force that was born for it. The workers have not so
much pushed the work as they have been pushed by it.
And yet the work has not always been easy, and there
have been times when the way seemed compassed with
darkness. But the pillar of cloud has refreshed us with
its shade under the burden and heat of the day, and the
pillar of fire has shone upon our way when God has
called us to march in the night.
Again and again have we been "brought by a way we
knew not, and led in paths that we have not known: and
he hath made darkness light before us and crooked things
straight. ' '
God's ways are past finding out, but sometimes He
Himself condescends to reveal them, There have been
in the Home Mission work of Asheville Presbytery many
maiked instances of God's direct guidance and provision.
Three examples will be gratefully recorded here:
(i) As our work developed we reached a point where
it seemed to the Presbytery almost necessary that we
should have an evangelist to be the hands and the feet of
the Home Mission Committee. The serious question
arose, How are we to get the means for this work ? We
could not afford to draw on the funds of our general
treasury, for this would take the bread out of the mouths
of our missionary pastors. At this juncture, the Presby-
tery of Mecklenburg and two beloved elders were moved
to come to our aid, and through their timely liberality
we have been enabled to employ Rev. R. P. Smith for the
whole of his time without cost to our Presbytery. In
each case the money was given for the employment of an
evangelist, and the gift of one of the elders was called
forth by his confidence in the fitness of the particular
man whom we have chosen for this work.
(2) Among the strategic points discovered by Rev. R.
P. Smith and Mr. R. S. Eskridge, in their investigation
two years ago, none surpasses the Fine's Creek region in
Haywood county, especially for the establishment of a
good school. One of the leading citizens of that commu-
nity reports that in the Fine's Creek school district, which
is six miles by eight, there are seven hundred and fifty
children of school age. Of these only one-half are enroll-
ed as pupils in the public schools, and only about one-
half of those enrolled attend regularly enough to get much
benefit, and those who attend every day get only about
ninety days schooling in the year. The people of the
district have from the beginning shown an eager desire
to have us establish a school.
Again the question of means confronted us. Now, see
how God wrought for us !
Two years ago, Mr. Walter M. Smith, a Presbyterian
elder, and a prominent merchant of New York City, was
sent to Asheville by his physician for a season of rest.
During his short stay he became very much interested in
the work of the First Presbyterian Church and of the
Presbytery of Asheville.
# When the Home Mission Committee issued the pam-
phlet setting forth the progress, need and prospects of
the work, a copy was sent to Mr. Smith, as to others
who had shown special interest in this cause.
In a few days the chairman of the committee received
a letter, from which the following extract is made .
Stamford, ConN., April 6, 1899.
My Dear Friend: — You may possibty remember that
I spoke t0 3 7 ou of a young man, a convert of Water Street,
whom we had sent to the Bible Institute, Chicago. He
studied there a year, and came home last fall so full of
love for the Word and for the Master, that I was led to
send him back for six months longer, and then have him
to return to Water Street as an assistant missionary.
I visited him in January. A more thoroughly conse-
crated man I never saw or knew. I wrote him enclosing
a check with which to return, and we expected him on
April 4. My letter reached Chicago March 15, at 5.30 p.
m. At 7. he passed away. On the 18th. we buried him
from Water St. Mission my own pastor officiating. It
was his thirty- fourth birthday. He was born again on
Oct. 8, 1895, and from that moment he never lost sight
of Christ for a second of time
Every Lord's Day morning he preached Christ and
him crucified to the inmates of the county jail, and
many through his loving word were led to the foot of
the Cross and confessed Christ.
When I received your note last night and read your
pamphlet, I asked the Lord if this was what he wanted
me to do. I have my answer.
If some poor lost one will listen to the story of this
poor boy (brought up a thief, with no education except
such as he could acquire by the instruction of other
thieves), who could be saved by grace, could- master the
Word with so much intelligence as to command the re-
spect and love of every one with whom he came in con-
tact ; then let this be known as a fund in memory of
Ira B. Snyder, the converted thief of Water Street Mis-
sion, saved by the grace of God, October 8th, 1895; died
in Chicago, March 15th, 1899.
Walter M. Smith.
The point selected by the committee for the invest-
ment of this sacred fund is the Fine's Creek district. In
the early part of January Mr. Smith, accompanied by
Mr. S. H. Hadley. the Superintendent of the Water
Street Mission, made the long journey from New York
to visit this field. He was much impressed by what he
saw, and has considerably increased his original gift.
He sent us checks at various times to help with the
building we were erecting, and has donated a beautiful
and sweet- toned bell to "ring out the old, ring in the
new." We expect to put two teachers in this field next
fall, and are planning more extensive developments in
the near future, as God may guide.
(3) There is only one county within the bounds of ,
our Presbytery in which there is no Presbyterian church,
Our evangelists reported after their prospecting tour that
in this county there was only one completed church
building of any denomination. Ever since their visit,
the people of this county have been sending to us the
Macedonian cry, "Come over and help us !"
Again the question of ways and means confronted us,
and again we appealed to him who has said, "The silver
and the gold are mine."
A member of the First Church, Asheville, has prom-
ised us $500 for the erection of a church building, and
the Society of Soul Winners has engaged through Dr.
Guerrant to put into our hands $30 a month towards the
support of a minister for the field. With this start we
expect to begin operations there as soon as spring shall
To carry out the plan of establishing and maintaining
both a church and a school at the county seat, we shall
need to have these gifts supplemented by others.
There are many other needy and promising fields
which we might enter at once if we had the means to
inaugurate and support the work. This is our oppor-
tunity. Shall we let it go by ?
While we do not desire to draw off contributions from
other destitute regions, we earnestly appeal to those who
feel an interest in the mountain work to aid us in giving
the Gospel and Christian education to those who are
calling aloud for these blessings.
Contributions may be sent to Rev. R. F. Campbell,
chairman of the Home Mission Committee, or to Mr.
W. A. Blair, Treasurer, Asheville, N. C.
We send our hearty thanks to all the kind friends who
have helped us hitherto.
Asheville, N. C, March 15th, 1900.